Monday, May 25, 2015

My Go FundMe Account

My Go FundMe Account

Updated 5/27/15  See bottom of post



So, this post is the most humbling thing I have ever written in my entire life.

Briefly, here are the facts for the past three weeks of my life (and know that I am leaving out A LOT of messy details of everything that happened in between.)

On Friday, May 1st my "soon to be ex-husband" and an employee were arrested for crimes against children, some of those children were my own.

It turns out that my husband and the employee (who started as one of our personal babysitters two years ago) were also having an affair.

It also turns out that besides paying payroll to said employee that she was living in our rental duplex so I was also paying all of her personal bills (like cable and internet.  I don't even have cable at home.)  Other people thought I knew she was living there and that I was just that benevolent of a person to let a part time employee live somewhere for free.

My children were placed in protective care for the weekend since it was 7pm at night when the sheriff's office completed my questioning and they did not have time to interview the children.  The children were split into three different groups for where they stayed for the weekend.  Interviews were completed on the following Monday and the children were thankfully returned to me.  The youngest children are still acting out from this separation.  For instance one of the children who was placed with a relative has started biting her siblings and myself even though she was not a biter before that weekend.

I went to the bank on Saturday morning only to discover that our business account was overdrawn by a thousand dollars and we have thousands of dollars of unpaid bills that should have been paid.

Since May 1st I have worked non-stop.  My employees have worked non-stop.  There is one employee in general that went above and beyond the call of duty and is the reason why multiple print orders were completed after hours.  There was also a former employee that has come in three different times and worked after hours.  Both of these employees forever have my undying love and prayers.  (I am thankful for the other employees too, but these ones are extra special.)  May is "mini-Christmas" for our store.  The local university has their graduation so graduates are shipping stuff home that they can't fit in their cars or on the airplane.  We also do a lot of printing for graduation parties, wedding showers, etc.  Usually the money made in this month gets saved to help us through the inevitable slow down of summer when everyone goes on vacation and does less printing and shipping.  Instead I have paid all the current bills, payroll and half of our unpaid bill debt.  Let me repeat that:  My store is solvent.  I WILL NOT BE CLOSING MY STORE.  I WILL NOT BE FILING FOR BANKRUPTCY.  Again, I have paid all current bills, payroll and half of the unpaid bill store debt in three weeks.  I am working with the best accounting firm in town and have a plan for paying off the rest of the unpaid debt over the next few months.  MY STORE IS OPEN FOR BUSINESS.

During the first week of May (besides it being the busiest week of the entire year for us outside of the 6 weeks of shipping starting November 15th of each year), I ran from legal meetings to bank meetings back to the store and filing for my divorce.  I also completed my own personal search warrants on our store, our house, the rental duplex and the vehicle that my husband drove.  LET ME REPEAT THAT FOR YOU:  I COMPLETED SEARCH WARRANTS, NOT THE SHERIFF'S DEPARTMENT.  NOT A SINGLE SEARCH WARRANT WAS ISSUED IN THIS CASE.  PLEASE REMEMBER THAT FOR FUTURE ELECTIONS.  NOT A SINGLE SEARCH WARRANT WAS ISSUED IN A CASE WHERE THERE WAS CELL PHONE PROOF OF CHILD PORNOGRAPHY.  I have turned over three laptops, a tablet, a computer network capable playstation and our personal storage device that all of my personal pictures for the past year had just been downloaded on.  So if any information is found besides what was discovered on the husband and mistress' cell phones IT WILL BECAUSE I WILLINGLY TURNED OVER COMPUTERS to help keep those two people in jail.  I went back in and gave two more statements with proof for why I considered my husband a flight risk if he made bail.  My mother-in-law also made a second statement.  BOTH OF US TRIED OUR BEST TO KEEP HIM IN JAIL.

Now I know this blog post is getting long so if you don't read anything else, just read this last paragraph.  I have dear friends who have convinced me to ask the world for help financially.  Not in paying the store bills, but for helping to pay for personal things for the kids and I.  I used the last of my savings to pay for my divorce and to correct the store's finances.  I have not paid any of my personal May bills.  Both our vehicles have been in the shop this month.  They are both over ten years old.  My mother-in-law is going to become the grandmother nanny and her vehicle is twenty-three years old.  I need to switch from a wood furnace to a propane furnace for heat this coming winter.  There are other things that really need to be fixed asap, but all those small things add up.  I have always been the one to reach into my purse and hand someone at least a $20 bill and now I am here having to ask the world to please help me get through the next few months until I get back on my feet.  If you can find it in your heart to give a small amount and then ask your family and friends to help too I would be so grateful.  You will forever be in my prayers.  Please go to this link and make a donation.

More information that I want to give to correct the rumor mill:

All that being said above, my husband's bail was lowered due to the fact that they did not have any proof of anything besides fourth degree and fifth degree charges when it came to him.  I was so angry as I drove home that night.  I could feel the anger pulsing in my body and I was terrified to go home.  I don't ever want to take my fear and anger out on my children.  So I prayed to God......every day since that day I pray for God to take all the anger away so my kids don't get hurt more.  I don't want to become one of those angry bitter people that you meet somewhere and you walk away wondering, "What the hell happened to that person?"  I want to live my life with joy and love.  And that is what has happened.  My husband made bail like I knew he would, but every time I interact with him I try to approach him with love.  I will admit that I have called him to his face a few bad names a couple of times though, but he has taken it.  We are working on having a quick and amicable divorce.  The earliest date that we could get for our first divorce hearing is June 1st, which is exactly one month from when he was arrested.

I guess people are starting to say that I am suffering from Stockholm Syndrome?  Ummm, okay....I don't get that one at all since I am divorcing him....People are putting what they think they would do and what they think I should do in the works here.  I understand that other people are rightly hurt and angry and afraid for me.  I also understand that I am being called to a much higher level of striving for sainthood than other people within my personal circle.  While you may not understand why I can stand to be in his presence, the fact of the matter is, I can.  My first and number one goal is my children.  In order to provide for their future I need to learn as much as possible (passwords, how to run new store machines, owner only information like filing corporate reports, etc) and Jason is the person to teach that to me before he goes back to jail.  Why on earth would I sit on the phone for hours after a 12 hour day trying to get someone from corporate to teach me something when my husband can teach me how to file a royalty report in half an hour and I can head home to my children that I haven't seen yet and it's 7:30pm at night?  I am always going to put the future of my children ahead of everyone else in the world.  You don't have to like it, you don't have to understand it, but stop trying to place your own personal issues on me.  Jason is no longer at our store during working hours.  He will only be there after hours if I need him to teach me how to do something.  We are working on trying to figure out a set date so that even if he is not in jail yet, we have a cut off date for when there will be no contact whatsoever when it comes to our store.  The problem is that I don't know what I don't know until something happens.  For instance, I just said that to a friend when literally the next moment an employee came around carrying a really large deer head that someone wanted to ship to Florida.  I have never packed a deer head in 7 years.  Jason always completed that type of shipment even if I was in the store.  But I am making a list and calling people and figuring it out everyday and we have completed all the tasks customers have asked us to do for the past three weeks.  I ask any of you that own businesses the following question: would your spouse be able to walk in and run your business if something happened to you?  99% of you would have to say "no" that question.  Thankfully with the best employees one could ask for and some help from Jason with information and training I have been able to rise to the occasion and plan on being fully knowledgable within two months of all these tragic events occurring.  That in itself is a miracle from God.

Yes, I went shopping with the man the day after he got out of jail.  His mistress had trashed the duplex apartment to the point that the lowest bid to clean the place was $500.  Let me repeat that again:  IT WAS GOING TO COST $500 TO CLEAN HER FILTH.  I wasn't going to just hand Jason cash or our debit cards to buy stuff so I went to the store to buy cleaning supplies and some food and water for him.  If you see us together in the future I don't expect you to make eye contact or acknowledge us if we are together.  I completely understand.  It's when I am by myself or you are in my store and won't look at me that I get hurt.  But anyways, I then went to a local church to get holy water to put on myself and Jason before we entered that duplex again.  I arranged for a priest to come bless the place the next day and to hear Jason's confession.  Jason has cleaned the duplex apartment.  He has begun repairs (like broken windows and painting) so that I can rent it out to pay for our children going to private school in the fall.  So, if you see things for sale, it's not to support him.  It's to support me and the kids.  The duplex has serious repairs that need to be made, but those bills are NOT included in the Go FundMe campaign.  I am paying for those by selling personal stuff just like I sold personal stuff to pay for the divorce.

I allowed a friend and my mother-in-law to throw out all Jason's clothes the weekend that my children were gone.  The first thing that the kids asked for after the first initial sobbing event when I told them that their daddy was in jail and they could not see him again was his clothes.  They wanted to sleep in his shirts and I couldn't give them a shirt because we had gotten rid of his clothes and my heart broke again for them and for me.  So, yes, I gave him some money to go to goodwill and buy clothes since he only had one set of clothes.  Plus, I don't want to be around a smelly person when I interact with him.  This is the kind of thing we are suppose to do as Christians.  Feed the hungry, clothe those who don't have clothes and frankly I don't have the money to buy him out of our store and properties, so please stop passing your judgments on me.  He's eating ramen noodles and drinking water and if I have to pay those small bills for a few months in order to get my store and houses in my name only then that is what I am going to do.  By the way the cable and internet bill for the duplex was cancelled before he was even after jail.

I have now figured out where all the money went from the store, but that information is between Jason and I and God.  It's all gone.  There is none hidden for Jason to flee the country.  All the rest of you can find out where it went on judgment day, because I am sorry, but I am at the point where I need to regain some privacy.  The most tragic events of my life (Chris' death) and now this betrayal beyond betrayal are out there not only for my local community to pass judgment on, but for the entire social media world to pass judgment on, and I am now trying to regain my privacy.  Imagine the worst thing your spouse has ever done, the worst pain you have ever experienced: heartbreak, betrayal, seeing your kids in pain, but instead of it just being within yourself or your small family or your small circle of friends, it's being known to the entire world.  My pain is out there for everyone to pass judgment on and I can't do a single thing to stop it.  All I can do is get up each morning and go to work and come home to hug and love my kids.

As for those of you who don't want to do business with our store or buy things I have for sale because of Jason then just remember who gets hurt by those actions:




See that picture above?  I know that Jason used to be the face of that business, but the kids and I are now the face of that business.  I have five kids and will now have 4-6 employees at a time to provide for since I now have to have a nanny and more employees so that eventually maybe I can only work Monday-Friday 8am-5pm and have my Saturdays off again.  I also have to pay for private school, and will be applying for scholarships, but we all know even if they get a full ride there are always small things like field trips, etc not covered by scholarships.   Please remember that it will be the kids and I hurt, not Jason, if you choose to do business elsewhere.

I can't control where people ship or make copies at.  We have been open for seven years and I have lost count of the number of times people have said, "Oh good.  I can ship with you again.  I didn't like this employee or that employee."  Sometimes people think the price is too high or that I looked at them wrong when really I was trying to remember if I turned on the crock pot before I left the house.  All I can do is pray to God for his mercy and help because everything depends on Him and then work as if everything depends on me.  I thank you for your past support, your continued support and your future support for our business.  I thank you from the bottom of my heart for your past prayers, your present prayers and your future prayers.

My family and I will be in therapy for years over what has happened.  In fact, I will probably be in therapy even longer because one store crisis happened this week while I was at a therapy session and then another massive crisis happened while I actually tried to take a lunch hour and drove home to check on a sick child.  I may never leave my store again.  I'm not sure if I will ever fully trust another living human being again.  But I know this, I choose love.  What my husband and that woman did were horrible crimes that they need to make restitution for by going to jail.  Jason has rightly lost everything he once held dear.  Unfortunately there is no explanation that he could ever give that will explain the unexplainable for these actions.  I have to give that to God and hope that eventually God's peace will fill that hole in my heart and soul.

I ask you to pray for him and that other woman.  Pray that their souls are not lost and that they don't commit suicide.  Pray for the children that were hurt by their actual crimes and for all my children who lost their daddy.  Pray for that other woman's family and friends who have been hurt by these actions.  Pray for me.  Pray that I can continue to live in God's grace each day.  Pray that I can heal and begin to move forward and that I can take up my new cross of being a single mother and business woman each day.  Pray for my family and friends and our community that has been so hurt by these actions.  Just know this, outside of the children involved I am the person who was hurt the most.  I was betrayed by my husband and best friend who was suppose to protect me and the children with his very life.  I was betrayed by a babysitter who became an employee.  I have been betrayed by people who knew things and never said anything.  There are other things that have happened that I have not mentioned that have added more pain and another cross.  But I still choose love.  I have made mistakes these past few weeks.  I will make some in the future because I am only human.  But I am trying each day to be the best Christian I can be, to be the best mother I can be.  Every decision I make is based on what is going to help my kids in the long run.  Again, I choose love.  The only way I can deal with Jason is with love even as I divorce him and we go our separate ways in order to protect the children.  I want his soul in heaven.  I take that wedding vow seriously even after everything that has happened.

This past week I have been anchored by three moments.  One was when a VIP customer whose name I knew, but I had never met, came in to do a shipment and as she left told me that I was part of her family now.  Another box customer who I had never met asked me to tell him the story about why I chose and pushed opening this particular franchise.  When I told him the whole story (which is another long blog post) and I got to the part where I wanted to provide a service where repeat customers are greeted by name,  he stopped me and said, "You've done that.  When I come in here I am always greeted by your employees and I can tell they care about me."  Then the very last customer on Saturday (and this was after a really long week that had some bad crap happen in it) suddenly stopped and said, "You have God's peace about you.  I don't know you, but I can sense God's peace coming out of you."  Please pray that continues.  Pray that even on my worst days (which I am sure many more are coming) that I can cling to God and people can feel His love and peace radiating out of me.  Pray that I carry this nightmare cross well and that I fight the good fight.

Thank you again for all your love and support.  Thank you for letting me share my story.  Please go donate if you can.  Please share this blog post with your friends and family so maybe they can at least pray for us even if they can't donate.   If I suddenly pop into your mind when you are doing something then please pray.  I am not sure when I will be able to blog again.  Today just happened because the store is closed in observation of Memorial Day.
Pray for all those we honor on Memorial Day, including my first husband, Lt. Christopher T. Starkweather.

May you all know the sweetness of God's peace in your hardest times,

Stephanie

Update 5/27/15:

"If I were to try to read, much less answer, all the attacks made on me, this shop might as well be closed for any other business. I do the very best I know how - the very best I can; and I mean to keep doing so until the end. If the end brings me out all right, what's said against me won't amount to anything. If the end brings me out wrong, ten angels swearing I was right would make no difference."

Abraham Lincoln


So that above quote is my life right now.  I am adding the following updates only because I was asked to do so by my marketing team.  I am NOT planning on addressing any other future rumors because I do NOT have the time.  I am working 12-15 hour days Monday-Friday and over 8 hours on Saturdays.  Any precious free time I get I am trying to desperately spend with my children and not writing on a computer.

1.  My children have NO contact with their father.  The only person who has contact with him is ME.  There is a court order in place of no contact with my children or any children.  If you didn't notice from what was posted above I have been fully cooperating with the police investigation and actually turning over more information than what they have asked for.  I do not want to do anything to jeopardize the investigation or my children's lives.  So let me repeat that: there has NOT been any contact with their father that would violate the court order.

 2.  Supposedly I was seen at a movie with Jason?  Ummmmm.....no.  Haven't been to the movies with him since our last date in April.  If you didn't notice from the above paragraph I am WORKING SIX DAYS A WEEK.

Okay, the above two points are what they wanted me to say.  These last few paragraphs are from ME because I DO NOT HAVE TIME to address rumors.  I have a store to run.  I have 5 kids who desperately want to see me each day.  Last Thursday night which is when I think the rumor says I supposedly went to a movie, I worked at the store until 10pm.  I had left at 7am in the morning and I got home at 10:30pm at night and left by 7am the next morning.  I didn't see my kids.  Let me repeat that:  I didn't get to see my kids that day.
.....I.....DID......NOT......SEE......MY......KIDS.......THAT.......DAY.


But even if I had decided to go out to dinner or meet Jason for coffee somewhere public THAT IS WHAT CIVILIZED PEOPLE DO WHEN THEY GET DIVORCED.  You meet in public places to help keep things civil to discuss things.  Right now I am not planning on being anywhere in public with Jason but if I do decide to meet him somewhere because I don't want to be alone with him, either now or in the future after he serves his jail time, than that is between us.  It's no one's business besides mine and his.  If I decide to try to give my brain a rest and go to a movie, either with my kids or by myself or with a friend, that is my choice (and will be completed with my personal money, not fundraised money.)  My life kind of sucks right now, but it's going to get better.  But I'm not going to live my life in fear of how the gossip is going to get spun.  Frankly, I can only do so much to try not to cause "any scandal" but obviously even if I don't do anything right now besides work scandal and rumors are being created by someone.  All I can do is try to live my life to honor God even if it means getting a divorce in order to protect my children.

I pray you all have a blessed day.  I sign off to leave for work now.

God's blessings,

Stephanie

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Spring 2014 TCA Kids Consignment Sale

Wall of Books at TCA Kids Consignment Sale:)
This sight makes my heart smile!


Happy Easter Everyone!

Life has been crazy busy with all the spring activities and some "end of the school year" things beginning.

My favorite spring sale starts today:

The TCA Kids Consignment Sale begins today!!!

Baby Items


This sale has everything one could ask for:

Stroller, high chairs, car seat bases

Bags, Shoes are in the laundry baskets on right side of picture
Boys clothes lining the walls in back and to the right

Toys, Toys and More Toys
Clothes, Clothes and More Clothes
Kids Furniture is there in the back


40% of the Sales go towards the Scholarship Fund for students to attend the Tri-State Christian Academy.  So, when I am doing my "tithing shopping" I remember that if an item has been priced by a consignor for $2 then the school gets 80 cents for the item and the consignor gets $1.20.  I get great deals to provide my kids with shoes, clothes, toys, future birthday and Christmas presents and at the same time I get to help local kids get a great Christian education.  I also get to help other local families earn some money to help provide for their families.  It doesn't get more "shop local" then going to this consignment sale!


My pile of clothes for the 3 littles

I joke all the time that God was being "economical" when He blessed us with three more girls after Jessie.  At the same time though clothes and shoes do wear out especially when the kids stay skinny the way mine have.  Jessie has even put on a pair of Katie's pants as shorts this year when laundry hadn't been done.  Seriously, at age 13 she can still fit into her sister's size 6!

My littles each have their own personality and style when it comes to clothes so I try to find a few things for Anna and Libby each year to add to their "hand me down" wardrobe from Jessie and Katie.  Jessie's style is summarized as "Classical Artistic" so if any clothes survive her wearing them for several years we have the "basics" to build on for the 3 littles.

Here are some of the "new to us" clothes I bought the littles at the pre-sale shopping event for consignors this week:

Katie is "Cowgirl Romantic."  She loves soft flowing fabric, but also loves horses and cowgirl clothes.


Katie wearing pink leggings with horses

Anna is our "funky hippy" girl:


Anna wearing leopard print with a new pair of pink leggings


Libby is our "Wildstyle" child.  She finds the brightest and craziest clothes that she can find and put her outfits together.  Many times she layers skirts under her dresses.

Libby wearing a silk sun dress with pink sandals we got for $2 at the sale.


This morning we began Day 2 of new outfits:


Katie wearing new embroidered jeans with a new cowgirl shirt and vest combo.
Libby is holding a Rapunzel doll that Jessie bought for her at the sale.
The play hat and pink dress we already owned, but I have bought many costume outfits over the last six years at the sale.
Libby is again wearing the pink sandals.

Anna didn't want to wake-up for pictures, but here she is curled up on my lap wearing a new funky flannel nightgown that I bought for her:

Anna's soft reindeer flannel nightgown


So, head on out to the TCA Kids Consignment Sale!  Bring your laundry baskets and rubber made containers to hold your stuff though they have laundry baskets you can use if you forget.  Come ready to spend some serious time shopping for your families needs!

Here's Another Post I wrote about a past sale.  (Note though: The Fall Sale has been moved back to September.  So their sales are April and September every year.)

Fall Sale 2013

Disclaimer: I will make some money if you happen by chance to buy one of my few items out of the thousands of clothes, books, toys, etc at this sale.  I am not disclosing my consignment number though.  All opinions expressed in this blog post are my own-not getting paid for that or for making this blog post!  Did this on my own to rave about this awesome sale!

May you have feel the sweetness of spring,


Stephanie

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

A Cold Start to Lent




Joey, Katie, Anna and Libby playing in January snow


Lent has once again started and I find not much has seemed to change since the start of last Lent: fighting off illness colds, vehicle repairs, broken pipes and washing machine from the extreme cold, and yes, the exhaustion of winter.  Been praying for all you Boston and Northeast people-so much snow!!  Thankfully we've had "just enough" snow to keep things white and pretty, but this cold-oh, I could do without the cold!  I may end up a southern snow bird some day!

Jason and I now have another future summer project.  We bought our house in 2007 and the people who owned if from the 1990's-2007 had been "amused" that the people that had owned the house in the 1970-1990's had the washing machine and dryer in the main foyer.  They were very proud of the gorgeous remodeling they had done to bring the main foyer back to it's original grandeur.  And don't get me wrong, it's one of the reasons why we bought they house, but.....well, now that we've lived here for the past almost nine years we know why the washing machine was there: It's too cold in the unheated garage for the washing machine to be out there when it is below zero!!!  We have had the pipes freeze and break at least 4 of the 9 winters we have lived here.  So, we are trying to decide how to fit a "laundry room" into a traditional farm house that doesn't have closets or a mud room or a traditional basement.  I think I may have to give up the one coat closet this house contains.  We're also trying to figure out how we can add insulation around/in two brick walls since pipes keep freezing on outside walls....it's frustrating and just one more thing to overcome (and of course NOT what I had listed originally as summer priority project.)  But a working laundry room for 7 people in the dead of winter does take priority over all other things.  We have only survived laundry wise for the past three months since Debbie lives just across the road and is willing to keep her washing machine running with our mountain of laundry.  Prior to this cold snap the washing machine broke several times.  I just realized that it's actually now 10 years old-I think it may be at the end of it's lifespan since they don't make appliances to last many years or to put up with the many work loads a large family makes, weather it is laundry wise or dishes wise.

I reread the my Lent post from last year and realized that I had also been fighting that "we're not doing enough/need to "spice up" home schooling fever" again".....I had been "hitting up" the kids about joining youth groups again, and both teens replied, "I'd really just like to do religion with dad."  Hmmm....pause.....so why am I trying to encourage the kids to add one more thing to a busy calendar or to be away from home more when Joey is already a freshman in high school???  Okay, so we just have to "make sure" that "religion class" happens each week.  We started Father Corapi's Catechism dvd series.  Some pretty deep stuff there.

We wrote out our Lent goals this past Sunday since Byzantine Lent started the next day and here is what the family decided:



Sorry the picture is off center-just realized that, but doesn't it seem more "real life" that way?  Since this blog has never been about perfection, I think it sums things up appropriately.  We're just doing our best each day trying to get ourselves and our children to heaven.  From our list, you can tell that we're not really Catholics that "give up" stuff for Lent.  The first Lent after I became Catholic a priest at Offutt Air Force Base really made an impression on me when he preached that the focus of Lent should be about "doing more."  Jason does give up all chocolate for Lent each year, which I know is a HUGE sacrifice for him, but I found that when I focus on doing more for God, I really do end up sacrificing....mostly time of course, but many times food is involved.  Last year I did the "diet thing" as well which meant trying to stay away from fast foods as much as possible, so I would donate the money saved to a charity.  I averaged between $25-40 per week just by trying to "wait til I got home" to eat while out for events.  I worked on "diet" during Advent as well and ended up losing almost 5 pounds during the holidays (and working full time.)  I didn't even get exercise in (which I'm not proud of, but it's the truth.)  Now for Lent I'm trying to add "exercise" to my other diet plans and hopefully we'll see what happens.

We'll be doing many of the same things as last year: Lent reading basket, watching more religious movies, crown of thorns and Stations of the Cross candles.  Familiar things help give a "rhythm to our life" and I think in the long run help all of us to grow in holiness.  Our local priest always points out that once you make that first decision to "skip church" this Sunday it makes it so much easier to skip church the next Sunday and the Sunday after that....sloth breeds slothfulness.  As I grow older and older I can really see the truth in that in all areas of life.  It takes great moral fortitude to get out of bed on those mornings when you just want to roll over and sleep the cold away.

Once again I come back to my favorite St. Thomas More quote:

The ordinary acts we practice every day at home are of more importance to the soul than their simplicity might suggest.”

Here's another "cold picture":

Jessie and Katie after "burying" themselves in January snow

As a "fun" note, life hasn't all been about drudgery.  We have had some friends over for "Game Night" where only board games or cards could be played (no video games allowed):

"Settlers of Catan" about to be played


We got a hotel room to have a Super Bowl family party at since we don't have cable and got some swimming in!  (Second time we've done this as a family in the past five years.):

Jessie and Joey in back; Libby, Katie and Anna in front.



This past weekend we even got in some face painting with face crayons.  Daddy was a sport and allowed the girls to paint him as well:
Anna "painting" Daddy's face

Jason rocking the face paint




May all of you have a blessed Lent-May it draw you closer to God!  May you all safely make it through this tough winter and may the sweetness of spring come soon!,

Always,

Stephanie




Saturday, January 10, 2015

Happy New Year, Yearly Goals and Literature Class

I have literally been trying to write a "Merry Christmas and Happy New Year" blog post for three weeks.....maybe someday I'll finish getting the Christmas pictures loaded.

For right now though I thought I would just touch base and say "Hello"...."we're alive".....we survived another Christmas with our retail shipping store....

Jason's Grandma Mercy passed away the Sunday before Christmas which makes the third out of six Christmases since we opened our store that we've had a death the week of Christmas.  Unfortunately the kids and I all became too sick to be able to go to the funeral.  We were thankfully able to attend a daily mass being offered for her at the nursing home where she had been living for the past two years yesterday.  It was wonderful to be there with a priest that had been seeing her once a week and who also administered her last sacraments to her within a few days of her death.

I'm sure that most of you have seen the different blog posts where people "pick a word" for their year.  Last year I picked "organize," but didn't tell Jason or the kids.  This year as we were all trying to recover from the icky cold virus that mutated into different forms for each person I was brainstorming ideas/goals for this new year.  I decided to pick words that started with the letter "f" since that is also the first letter for "fifteen."  I actually talked to Jason and the kids about it on New Years Day.

Our words for this year are:

Family

Fit

Focus

Frugal

and 

Fun


Obviously this blog had been all about family and frugalness.  The fit has been a goal of mine since last May.  I am at the hard part of finally feeling better from all my pregnancies, illnesses and past surgeries, but I'm in the tough spot of injuring myself when I try to work out and then gaining more weight while I heal.  I also realized that I had gotten into the bad habit of thinking bad things of myself so part of fit is also "forgiveness," which also means being kind to myself.  I actually managed to lose 4.5 pounds and 4.5 inches in the last six weeks of 2014, so I'm hoping to just slowly keep plugging away at being "fit" this year, by exercising when I can "fit" it in and just watching the calories.  The "focus" came as a two part goal.  Part of "focus" is just continuing to organize the house and all the "stuff" of being a large home schooling family.  The other part of "focus" is for both Jason and I to make some goals we have personally and professionally....these are extra things which means we have to really tighten down on our already packed schedule.....just making sure that each minute counts as we slowly plug away at meeting those goals.  Helping each other by watching the kids and clearing the calendar of extra stuff so we can get the work done we both want/need to do.   Then sometimes-well actually ALL the time-I need the reminder to have "fun" because I am such a workaholic.

I will now being teaching middle school literature at our local home school co-op besides being the Kindergarten Montessori teacher in the mornings and teaching preschool Catechesis of the Good Shepherd in the afternoons, so I'm actually not sure how much blogging I'll be getting done before May.  We have quite the reading list this semester as we focus on literature from 1800-1850 (to match with our history timeline.)

We will be reading:
The Legend of Sleepy Hollow and Rip Van Winkle
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (in order to get Mark Twain in this year and again next year)
Robinson Crusoe (we didn't get to this last semester when we were in the 1700's)
The Last of the Mohicans
Northanger Abbey (our two weeks of Jane Austen since it's one of her shortest works)
Edgar Allan Poe Week
Emily Dickinson Week (she's after 1850, but that way we can focus on more 20th century poetry next year)
Longfellow Week
One week of misc American poets/short stories (still to be determined)
Uncle Tom's Cabin
House of the Seven Gables (if time)

I'm exhausted and excited just thinking about it.  Feel free to leave a comment telling me what your goals or "words for the year" are....Also, let me know what some of your favorite classic books are!  Literature is one of the things I love most about home schooling.  I've got to read so many awesome books with the kids that I missed as a kid (and probably wouldn't have gotten to reading as an adult without the "pressure" to give my kids a classical education.)

I pray that you all had a blessed Advent and Christmas Season and that 2015 brings you much peace and happiness.

May you have the sweetness of achieving your goals this coming year!

Always,

Stephanie


Sunday, October 5, 2014

Images of Summer

Since this weekend finds our temperature dipping down 30 degrees from Friday's high in the 70's and while I fight off a cold that quickly became a sinus infection, I thought I would post some pictures of the different events that I blogged about in last week's post.

Here is Poppy with her set of twins born in August.  Poppy had previously belonged to a couple other families in our area before finding her way to our small farm.  She had been bred before, but had never successfully conceived.  August is rather late to have babies so hopefully they will survive this winter.

Poppy with twin babies: late fall goats

Here is an image of one of the free range chickens that I was complaining about.  Several of them decided to start roosting on my back windshield wiper this past summer.


Free range chicken


Something new to our house this week: we added a fish aquarium as our only inside pets.  Jessie and I were at a pet store earlier this summer getting something for one of the litters of kittens when we discovered "Finding Nemo" figurines for fish tanks.  Anna had already requested a "Finding Nemo" birthday party and this then spurred on the idea of a fish tank to help transition the three littles into their own room.  Of course this fish aquarium is "bigger" than what would really need if one was just wanting a temporary aquarium.  I really miss the koi pond that I used to have at my old house.  I used to sit by it and pray a lot.  I would just relax and watch the fish swim around and listen to the running water of the small waterfall built next to it.  I honestly enjoy sitting upstairs and watching these glo fish swim around:


Glo fish under black light

Glo fish under regular aquarium light



There are eight glo fish and two clown loach fish in there though usually only Joey sees the clown fish at 6:30am when all is quiet.  They seem to just be hiding in the tiki mask.  Yes, right now, there is Ariel from "The Little Mermaid in the fish tank versus "Finding Nemo" items.

Here is a picture of the cake that Jessie made for Anna's birthday.  The figurines are actual aquarium figurines that one can buy online or at their local pet store.  Jessie made all the coral and used her new checkerboard cake pans to make a two colored checker board cake.
Anna and Katie with the "Finding Nemo" cake made by Jessie


Our local library usually has a "free movie" each month that they serve with popcorn.  Families are allowed to bring their own drinks in.  The movie this September was "Finding Nemo" so ten days after Anna's birthday she got to see the movie on a big screen!!

Anna next to the "Finding Nemo" poster at our local library


Here is the dinosaur cake that Jessie made for Katie's birthday back in August.  The figurines were bought online.  The volcano and waterfall were made out of rice krispy treats and covered with frosting:
Dinosaur cake with Volcano and waterfall
 Here's the cake "on fire" with lit candles.  The dinosaur table runner under the cake is actually an extra large nursing scrub that I cut the arms off of and slit up the sides.  I bought it at a flea market for $3 and there's no way I would have been able to get a yard or more of fabric for that price.  I also managed to buy a "Finding Nemo" scrub for $3 as well and did this for Anna's birthday party as well!  Small frugal luxury and the fabric can now be made into something else or reused for another party!

Dinosaur cake with lit candles


I mentioned previously that Joey is playing soccer at one of the local schools.  This was him about to go in for the second half of his first official high school soccer game.  Harding Stadium is considered one of the top ten high school stadiums in the United States.  He looks so small in this picture, but he is actually taller than me now and has grown about six inches in the last year alone!  Roll Red Roll!

Joey about to go in at Harding Stadium

I mentioned that one of my cousins got married on the Fourth of July this year.  Here is one of my favorite pictures from that wedding.  It looked like we color coordinated ahead of time, but we really didn't!  Both my father and Jason wore red shirts, while my step mom Malinda, cousin J.T. (wearing the cowboy hat), the kids and I were all wearing colors to match the bride's colors of pink and green.   I love how Libby just totally cheesed by putting her chin on her hand and that Anna is sitting on her beloved Grandpa Doc's shoulders.   Here we are at her gorgeous outside reception:

Family Picture at Maria and Brian's Wedding Reception



Here are the four girls playing "Princess Candyland" at the end of Libby's birthday party day.  We really like playing cards and games in this family.  You can also see one of our "reusable" birthday hats that the the special birthday person gets to wear on their party day.

The 4 girls playing "Candyland"

Here is the front flower bed from earlier this summer.  These hostas plants are actually some transplants from our old house that have managed to survive the past 7 years of chickens pecking and goats eating them and mail people running them over.  Hoping they last at least seven more and that I can get some of them divided next summer to plant in different parts of the farm.


Summer flowers



Wishing you a few more warm days this fall!!

From the Sweetness of our couch to yours,

Stephanie 

Sunday, September 28, 2014

What Did We Do This Summer?

This post is for my husband.  He recently had a friend ask him, "What did you do this summer?"  To which he paused and then replied, "I don't actually remember, but I know it was busy."  To his credit, Jason was at work at the time....so here is what we did this summer:

June

We continued our home school year since we normally take 6 weeks off from Thanksgiving-New Years; Joey also began an on-line math class.  We had weekly guitar lessons.

Joey also began high school soccer practices.
(They have optional practices 5 days a week during June and July.)

Jessie, Katie and Anna ran with the local Striders Track Team 2 evenings per week and participated in one track meet this month.

We began twice a week trips to Cranberry Township, PA (a two hour drive one way from our house) to see Dr. Bulow at Revive Chiropractic Care.  He specializes in Upper Cervical adjustments.  Jessie has been crying almost nightly since March in pain from her scoliosis and we seemed to have "plateaued" with the local chiropractic care.  I am happy to report that she has not cried since the last week of May, amazing results!!!

We had Joey's birthday party: 5 friends went swimming at a local pool and then stayed over night and played video games.

Libby's Birthday Party:  She wanted "princess jungle theme"-Jessie decorated the whole house and created a "pin the tale on the zebra" game with daddy's help.  We had one other family come over for dinner, games and cake.

We "technically" ended May with an end of the year party for my "Little Women's Literature/Hospitality Class" on the 31st, so we we basically had an entire months of parties since one of my friends also had a baby shower!

We went to our local Greek Fest and saw the latest "X-Men" movie.  We went to the Carnegie Science Center for "Snowball Day" and had a blast.

Jason began remodeling work at our duplex with a friend and his son.

I threatened to dispose of all animals on the farm after the dogs and chickens tore up all my flowers for like the 6th year in a row.  Jason installed an electric fence that partially works.  It kept the dogs out, but not the chickens that kept escaping from the chicken coop.  There is nothing remotely romantic about free range chickens.  The only reason why chickens still exist is that the desire to have eggs and meat for one's family overrules killing them all off.  I still don't know how pioneers (and people who lived in earlier times) managed to keep them alive during the winters when it required allowing the animals to live in one's house.  I'm praying that I never have to figure that one out!!!

The five kids and I left for our annual Iowa/Wisconsin trip on Wednesday the 25th to see our extended family.  We began by driving all night Wednesday and part of Thursday to my dad's house in Iowa where we watched my dad build a brick patio outside his house and work on his amazing vegetable and flower gardens.  The kids did lots of bike riding and digging in dirt.  We went to mass at Georgetown, Iowa which is the church that my Great-Grandmother Elizabeth worshipped in and is buried at.  My heart was overwhelmed to be sitting there.

Jason attempted to start on a "Honey Do" list while I was gone during his evening hours after work, but he came down with a cold.  Then anything he attempted to complete did not go right on either the first, second or third time.

At various times both Jason and I attempted gardening: he on his vegetable garden and me on my front flower garden beds.  I got tangled up with poison ivy again....I was itchy for 3 weeks.

While in Iowa we visited my late maternal grandmother's farm and ate ice cream at "Graham's" in Ottumwa, Iowa (which is a local ice cream spot that my grandmother took me to a few times when I was little.)  We got to visit my uncle who survived a horrible car accident last December that my dear aunt died in.  It's amazing to see how far he has come since he was in a coma and woke up not remembering things.

July


We left for Wisconsin and tried to outrun tornados (that's an entire blog post in itself).  We ate at a Pizza Ranch franchise which the older kids have now decided must be an Iowa tradition.


We went to Discovery World Museum in Milwaukee and then to Old World Wisconsin where we ran into a former high school classmate and my former junior high school principal.

We celebrated the 4th of July by going to a cousin's wedding and dancing the night away.  We saw fireworks in my hometown and played lots of cards with our family.  (Jason flew in to be there for the wedding.)  We drove back home and then drove back to Wisconsin four days later unexpectedly for an amazing extended family picture.

We had soccer, Striders track, online math class and endless doctor appointments both for the Chiropractor and other annual check ups.

Also, May began the start of endless car and lawn mower repairs, which ultimately resulted in us sucking up buying a new lawn mower in July.

Joey went to Scout camp for a week and Jason joined him for the last half of the week.

Our dear dog, Grizzly Bear, died.

In May I found a "Zumba in the Park" group and unfortunately the last time I made a work out was in July.  Need to get restarted!!!

August

Jason started the month out by going to Pennsic for the first time in 8 years.

More vehicle repairs (We are at $2, 000 and counting now between all the different vehicles.)

I tried to go to some of the Infant Jesus of Prague Prayer Novena Services about forty-five minutes from our home starting in July.  I made 2 of them in August before life got complicated by the vehicle repairs listed above.  I think I spent over 6 hours just driving different people to different places one day while we were juggling having just 1 vehicle for 3 adults and 5 kids.

Online Math class, end of the year testing for Joey and Jessie, six days a week soccer games/practices become mandatory.

End of the year Awards Banquets for Scouts and Striders (on the same night of course!)
(Jessie received the President's Award for Striders and Joey "won" the Skills Board competition during Scout Camp-he completed 32/36 Skills Listed on the Board.)

More dentist and doctor appointments and more truck repairs.

Major purging and cleaning of the house.

Home School things for current school year began.

Jason finished remodeling one of the duplex units and it is thankfully now rented out.

Appointments for our "St. Nicholas Project" continue.

We had Katie's "Dinosaur" themed birthday party.

We tried to go swimming a few times-it was such a cold August again though.

Jason and I went out for our 8th Wedding Anniversary to Drover's Inn and saw a movie.

Our church had it's annual Church picnic: tons of food and swimming time:)!

We co-hosted a "Bon Voyage" picnic for some friends spending the next year in the Ukraine.

High School began for Joey: He's a 9th grader now!

Jessie tried out for the local community theater's production of "Into The Woods" and will be "Little Red Riding Hood" for at least one performance.

Our goat Poppy had twin babies.

Took the older kids to "Rugby Fest" and to a movie to thank them for all their hard work this summer.

September

More purging and cleaning, plus a few more St. Nicholas Project appointments.

I spoke at the Steubenville Catholic Diocese's Respect Life Conference.

Jason and I had THREE date nights this month and saw TWO movies!!!  This is a record number of dates in one month (including when we were dating through grad school!)

Home School Co-op began and goes on until May.  I am teaching 3 classes: Logic and Speech for middle schoolers, Montessori Kindergarten and Pre-School Catechesis of the Good Shepherd one day a week.

The 3 Littles began dance at Delelle's Tumbling each Wednesday: they are taking ballet, tumbling and hip hop.

Jessie has guitar and voice lessons.

Jessie has "Into the Woods" rehearsals 3 days a week and will now also be playing "Little Red's Grandmother" for at least one of the performances.

Joey has soccer 5-6 days a week plus high school.  We usually see him at either 6:30am or 10pm at night on his way to shower and bed.

Anna had her 5th Birthday: "Finding Nemo" theme.

We went to Rochester, NY for Jason's 15th Year High School Reunion.  We visited the Seneca Zoo and his friend Chuck's family for a pizza lunch/play date.  (This was when we got our third date thanks to Grandma Debbie.)  We also got to see Jason's Aunt Julie and Uncle Don.

Jason has another friend helping him finish remodeling the second unit at the duplex, with more work to be done in October so that hopefully we can have it rented out by the end of the month.

I consigned at the fall TCA Kids Consignment Sale.

Jason and the older 2 kids cleaned out 1/3 of our barn so that we can fit more hay in it for the goats this coming winter.  We lost a chicken and two cats, but had a third litter of kittens born plus one more  older kitten join our extended barn family.



And that my dear husband is what we did this summer besides the daily grind of running our store and keeping the children fed, bathed and clothed.


Wishing you a blessed new school year and fall.

May you enjoy the blessed sweetness of juggling family life,

Stephanie





Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Infant Jesus Novena and The Arms of Love


Infant Jesus of Prague


This past evening I made it to St. Mary's Catholic Church in Martins Ferry, OH  for the fourth Monday of their nine week novena to the Infant Jesus of Prague.  It's an hour drive one way so I do two hours of driving for one hour of prayer, but it is so very worth it.  Since we had been away travelling I had missed the first three Mondays, but it's better to start late than to never start at all.  The church was packed tonight compared to other times I have attended.  My heart was overjoyed to see so many people praying together to honor the infancy of Jesus.

I was overwhelmed emotionally as I sat there.   I realized that it was actually three years ago to the very week that I had sat in the cry room of the church to honor the birth of our precious Libby when my uterus had collapsed.  It's been such a long road since then.  I didn't make it back to the novena that summer nor the next as I dealt with all the pain and searched for a way to try to avoid the partial hysterectomy that I finally agreed to over a year later.  Then last year I returned from my seventeen day road trip intending to make the pilgrimage only to have an attack of pain that led to the diagnosis of interstitial cystitis bladder disease, an autoimmune disorder.  Let me just say that when this disease "flared up" in my body that I literally  felt like I had been beaten up and didn't move off the couch for three days.  Thankfully the surgeon who performed my partial floor reconstruction and partial hysterectomy also specializes in this type of disease.  I did eight weeks of "bladder rescues" where he poured a solution inside my bladder that helped ease the pain.  There is a medication that I can take that costs over $400 a month.  At this time though I have been controlling the symptoms herbally, because it's $400 for one medication!  I have only had one other flare up in a year-it felt like I was trying to pass a kidney stone.  The key to controlling the disease so far has been to make sure that during times of stress that I drink the herbal drink and to try to find a way to relax.

As I sat in the church I was also able to rattle off a list of a bunch of other June/July events stretching back over the past six years that had really shaken our lives at times......but I also realized how God had faithfully navigated us through each twist and turn.....and how both Jason and I had remained faithful to Him.  Here I was sitting in the Church where I had received my "Job moment" literally three years later still singing God's praises.  Here I was six years literally to the day when my marriage had begun it's "for worse time"-when I hadn't been sure that just two years into our marriage we could survive what we ended up surviving.....and yet we thankfully remain married through the grace of God, and our marriage is stronger than if we hadn't weathered that "for worse" storm.  I sat in a Catholic Church praying for many friends and family members, but especially one who is sick and may die.  And once again I was struck that this is the legacy I want to leave my children:

That when times get hard we get on our knees.....we work hard-as if everything depends on us, but we pray harder since everything depends on God.  Have Jason's and my money problems improved since we started our devotion to the Infant Jesus??  Not in the worldly sense-we have many months where we aren't sure at all how we are going to pay the bills, but we have never gone hungry yet, and from month to month things have worked out even when we couldn't really explain to anyone else how it all worked out.  In fact, since our country is still very much in a recession that is actually probably more of a depression, I know that we are poorer.....gas costs more, milk costs more....life just costs way more....and our pay checks are actually smaller because our taxes are more.....we're just like everyone else trying to make a living....

But I can thankfully say my faith is stronger than it was six years or even three years ago.....and my health has definitely improved even with the autoimmune disease diagnosis......and so I pray that if I were to die tomorrow that my children would cling to the Catholic faith that both Chris, Jason and I have given them.  That they would remember that I always found my peace in the Church, whether it was from making an annual novena pilgrimage or my weekly adoration hour or dragging my tired self (and theirs!) to Church each Sunday whether I felt like it or not.....because honestly, I have never regretted time that I have spent praying and singing in Church.

When times get tough may my kids always look at a crucifix and realize that it contains the arms of true love.  That true love dies to oneself and puts another's needs before it's own.  That true love requires pain and sacrifice, and that even God himself ran to pray in the Garden of Gethsemane to get through his own dark night of the soul.  That the King of all of creation humbled himself to become a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes (which were RAGS) and laid in an animal manger......that God become humble and completely dependent on Mary and Joseph to take care of all his needs....that he once had to learn how to crawl and walk and run.......and that he laughed and cried.......may they always honor the baby King that would one day give his life on a cross.

May my children remain always faithful, through good times and bad, through rich times and poor times, in sickness and in health.....May they Love God all the days of their lives.....

and May you know the Sweetness of that Faithful faith too,

Stephanie


Novena Prayer of Thanksgiving for Graces Received from the Infant Jesus



I prostrate myself before Your holy image, O most gracious Infant Jesus,
to offer You my most fervent thanks for the blessings You have bestowed on me.
I shall incessantly praise Your ineffable mercy and confess
that You alone are my God, my helper and my protector.
Henceforth my entire confidence shall be placed in You!
Everywhere I will proclaim aloud Your mercy and generosity,
so that Your great love and the great deeds which You
perform through this miraculous image may be acknowledged by all.
May devotion to Your holy infancy increase more and more in the hearts of all Christians,
and may all who experience Your assistance persevere with me
in showing unceasing gratitude to Your most holy infancy,
to which be praise and glory forever.

Amen.